Number of cashes
A common mistake I have seen a lot of in low- and mid-stakes MTTs during my time playing them is shoving hands that rate to be best in situations where there are more profitable lines available. Knowing when to do one play rather than another requires some read on your opponents' calling ranges and the likelihood that they will re-raise or re-jam with worse hands. Your stack size also dictates when to do one move over another. Let's take a look at a hand like A-J on the button with 15 to 20 big blinds. Shoving is very likely to pick up the blinds and antes and a few worse ace-high hands or a hand like K-Q suited might call you. It is clearly an unexploitable play, but with aggressive opponents in the blinds, raising to your normal size is much more profitable. By just raising instead of shoving, you allow your opponent an opportunity to re-raise with worse hands that they would otherwise fold. An aggressive player's re-shove range will often include a lot of hands you are beating and a lot of hands you are dominating that you really want to keep in the pot. If a player looks at a hand like Q-J suited, J-10 suited, or suited connecters and re-jams against your standard open, then you are losing huge equity by making them fold pre-flop, so don't give them a chance to! There is some downside to this. You may get some players to fold small pairs that you are flipping against by shoving, but the hands you keep in their playing range far outnumber these small pairs. If you have to take a flip now and again in order keep hands that you are 70% or 60% to win against, then that is a small price to pay. As with anything in poker, when to shove and when to induce by making a normal opening raise are relative. With a hand like K-J, you can be so far ahead of your opponent's re-shoving range in blind-versus-blind situations. Some players will shove such a wide range on your opens in these types of spots that you want to let them put it in with suited connecters and hands like J-10 that you dominate. Shoving, although unexploitable, is not the best line to take. The key is to know your opponent and the situation. Ask yourself, "Will my opponent call with worse if I shove or will he try to make a re-steal with a very wide range if I just open?" If the answer is "No" to the first question and "Yes" to the second question, then opening the pot may be better than shoving. As a general rule, it is better to induce with big cards that will dominate more hands than try to induce a re-shove with a small pocket pair. A hand like 5-5 is better just to shove in most situations where you are likely to have the best hand because you are flipping against a majority of hands that might re-shove. Even a hand like 8-7 is a flip, so it is better to take the unexploitable route even though technically 5-5 is a better hand than a big ace. Paying attention to your tables even when you are not in a hand is +EV in general and will help you with decisions like this one. Watch for who is re-stealing against late position opens regularly. These players are going to be prime targets for inducing a jam when you get a solid hand that you want action from. Don't make the game easy on them by shoving all-in. Keep your eyes open, as passing on these chances to win big pots can be a huge mistake even if shoving all-in pre-flop is a profitable play. Don't settle for the second best line; always shoot for playing optimally. As always, good luck at the tables. Walter JLizardWright is a six-time PocketFives Triple Crown winner and a site instructor at PocketFives Training. If you are interested in lessons, please contact him via PocketFives PM or at JLizardTraining@gmail.com.